Fitting in a good workout session usually leaves you feeling energised, pumped and on top of the world - all thanks to that extra serotonin and dopamine running through your brain! And we all know that regular exercise offers a whole host of health benefits, both in the short and long-term: it can help reduce inflammation, the risk of heart disease, reduce stress, and can lead to that post-workout glow. But for some gym-goers, there may be a common downside to regular workouts: unexpected acne flare-ups.
Post-workout breakout is an actual thing
As you’ve been working out regularly, have you looked in the mirror and noticed any unwelcome pimples either on your face, back or another part of your body? It probably isn’t your imagination. The mix of heat, sweat and friction from tight-fitting workout clothes can create the ideal environment for clogged pores leading to acne.
How sweat contributes towards a breakout…
Sweating is an important mechanism for keeping your body nice and cool when your temperature starts to creep up. It also helps get rid of impurities, toxins and pathogens out of your body - but if sweat lingers on your body for too long, it can easily lead to skin problems! That’s because the toxins can be reabsorbed into the body through the skin, leading to inflammation and breakouts!
If sweat isn’t properly rinsed off the skin, it can mix with natural body oils, residue and potential dirt that has already been squeezed out of your pores during the workout; leading to clogged pores, contributing to post-workout breakouts. Leaving your skin unwashed after a workout for a long period of time is basically a breeding ground for acne.
Now, this certainly doesn’t mean you have to give up your favourite sport or stop working out altogether - the benefits outweigh any skin problems. In fact, there’s even some evidence to suggest that exercise can help keep skin looking younger for longer!
How to prevent post-workout breakouts
With a little extra TLC (it really is simpler than you may think), you can get those breakouts under control, keeping those acne flare-ups to a minimum.
Keep your skin dirt-free before hitting the gym
Dermatologists preach this on a daily basis! The biggest tip would be to ensure your face is clean before exercising. As sweat, dirt, makeup and any grime built upon our face will be re-absorbed into the skin via open pores, it’s important to cleanse your face, especially if you work out towards the end of the day!
Avoid touching your skin when working out
Since gym equipment is a breeding ground for lots of bacteria, touching your face during your workout can easily contaminate your skin, leading to breakouts after your workout! It’s best to avoid touching your face (keep a fresh towel at hand to wipe off any sweat) and it’s also important to wipe down equipment before and after use to help minimise the transfer of bacteria.
Rinse off sweat ASAP
Showering straight after a hard workout is the way to go when it comes to keeping acne at bay. Washing off properly helps prevent the sweat and bacteria build-up from collecting. And if you notice that your skin gets especially red after a workout, it’s worth using cool water to help reduce redness.
Replenish your fluids lost
If you’re building up a good sweat at the gym, it can lead to another of your skin’s worst enemies - dehydration! Dehydrated skin can lead to a build-up of dead skin cells, and so increases the potential for pores to clog. Remember to stay hydrated through your workout, and make sure you’re drinking enough water at home too. You could even include our electrolyte complex to help replenish those all-important fluids that you’ve lost during your workout.
Make yourself a post-workout smoothie
As a nutritionist, I’m a huge fan of post-workout smoothies! Any smoothie filled with nutritious vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and even plant-based milk (dairy can amp up inflammation) will provide plenty of anti-inflammatory properties to help soothe your skin. I’d recommend adding some turmeric into your smoothie, as it contains powerful compounds called curcuminoids that have both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties to help soothe your post-workout skin.
Riya Lakhani ANutr is a registered nutritionist and health writer with a special interest in plant-based nutrition. She has completed a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Human Nutrition, and has developed a passion for writing about all things plant-based.